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Showing posts with label Dominic Cortina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dominic Cortina. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Chumbolone Casino

So as I took last week off -- with some readers fearing I'd been chained in a City Hall dungeon for writing the words "Mayor Chucky" -- an amazing thing happened. (I took the week off after Kass did, which is why you are going to get a slew of articles today.)

Mayor Richard Daley agreed he'd like City Hall to own a gigantic casino, with all the contracts to be overseen by a special city gaming board hand-picked by the mayor himself. Please don't call it the City Hall Casino or the Daley Casino. That's rude. Call it the Chumbolone Casino.

A casino with all the contracts and jobs and deals hidden from public view should be named for all of us chumbolones who believe taxes will decrease if the casino is built.

So I'm calling on you, the readers of this column, to help the mayor by coming up with recommendations for the posts of Chumbolone Casino boss and on the Chumbolone Casino board.

The mayor has been under great stress, and nobody wants him to get angry and transform into the Mayor Chucky persona, which would terrify the Olympic selection committee. Let's help the mayor instead.

Send your Chumbolone Casino recommendations to me, and we'll present them to the mayor in a special ceremony to be held either at the Polish sausage stand on 31st Street, or at Tavern on Rush, whichever he prefers.

"Who'll handle the patronage at the mayor's casino?" asked a loyal reader who calls himself Leprechaun. "There will be jobs there, right?"

Robert Sorich. Who else?

Sorich, the mayor's former patronage boss, was convicted in federal court as part of a scheme that rigged city job applications to illegally build massive patronage armies for the mayor, in direct violation of a federal court order. Sorich is appealing his conviction on mail fraud, not racketeering, as I'd reported recently.

But who'll run the gambling? I've got just the guy behind the guy:

Rayjo.

Rayjo -- known formally as Raymond John Tominello -- comes from the mayor's neighborhood. Nobody calls him Raymond, or Ray. They call him Rayjo.

I have a suspicion that the mayor may know Rayjo, but I've been waiting for those tough TV reporters who like spanking the Urkel out of the hapless Todd Stroger to ask Daley if he knows Rayjo, or not.

Rayjo is eminently qualified. Consider his background.

Rayjo tutored under the famous Don "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini and Dominic Cortina, the Chicago Outfit's top bookies back in the 1980s, and he pleaded guilty to being one of their top lieutenants and went to prison for his crimes.

Before and after his release, Rayjo was in the real estate business with the mayor's second favorite developer, Thomas DiPiazza, on several deals in Bridgeport, and the sale of land to the Chicago Board of Education for almost a million dollars.

See? Rayjo and Tommy D. care about the school children.

And a few months ago, Rayjo was also mentioned in federal testimony in the Family Secrets trial. Chicago Outfit hit man-turned-government witness Nick Calabrese testified about a meeting to establish the pecking order in a Bridgeport gambling operation.

Calabrese said he met with several tough guys, including Outfit loan shark and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle. Twan was convicted in Family Secrets for passing key information on an Outfit murder to Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., while the FBI was recording their conversations.

(Ironically, Twan invented the term "chumbolone," which he insisted means stupid idiot.)

At that meeting were Frank Sr., the late Outfit enforcer Ronnie Jarrett and Outfit figure Mario Dispensia. Oh, and one other guy.

Rayjo.

How's that for qualifications?

Like his buddy Tommy D., Rayjo also worked for the city, so he has a public service background too.

So Rayjo it is, for chief operating officer of the Chumbolone Casino.

Yet there are other important casino jobs, from scooping up the quarters in the slot machines, to running the VIP bottle service for high-rollers, even building the casino itself, and securing City Hall occupancy permits. And don't forget the Chumbolone Casino board. I'm sure you'll find responsible people. But don't ask Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission. He argues that, given City Hall's habit of playing footsie with the Outfit for the last century, a casino won't save taxpayers money.

"You'll end up having to pay a tax for all the corruption that will be brought into play, with the contracts, with the sweetheart deals, with the ghost employees and, history has shown, with the corruption of government and law enforcement," Wagner said.

Wagner spent decades with the FBI, hunting the Chicago Outfit. So, naturally, City Hall sniffs at his concerns.

So who will we put on the board? And who'll scoop up the quarters?

Please help the mayor help you.

Your baby needs a new pair of shoes.

Thanks to John Kass

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Connectiing the Dots with Chicago Clout

In 1999, Mayor Richard Daley met with close advisers at City Hall to discuss a favorite project, a plan to build dozens upon dozens of expensive single-family homes along the Chicago River in his ancestral 11th Ward, in what is now the troubled Bridgeport Village development.

Also at the meeting were mayoral strategist Tim Degnan, considered the fifth Daley brother, and Degnan business associate and 11th Ward developer Thomas DiPiazza, according to court documents and Tribune reports. But before and after that meeting with the mayor, according to public records in Illinois and Florida, DiPiazza was also engaged in a series of other, separate real estate transactions with a Bridgeport fixture known as Rayjo.

That's what he's called in Bridgeport, in Chinatown, on Rush Street and at the federal building, by prosecutors and the FBI. He's well known in these circles.

His formal name is Raymond John Tominello.

Tominello, 67, is considered a mathematical genius. He was convicted in 1989 of running the Chicago Outfit's illegal sports book operation under the supervision of the legendary Donald "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini and Dominic Cortina.

In 1989, Angelini, Cortina and Tominello all pleaded guilty, a week after their indictment on federal racketeering charges. Tominello served less than a year in federal prison. Angelini and Cortina have since died. But Rayjo still thrives, at least in real estate.

What does this tell us? That DiPiazza, who gets into meetings with the mayor about one of the most important developments in Bridgeport in years, has a mobbed-up business associate.

Of course the mayor will say he didn't know about it. And that may be true. He might not have ever heard the name Rayjo in his entire life, even though they're about the same age and grew up in the same neighborhood. Can't coincidences happen in Chicago?

DiPiazza's attorney Mark Kralovec said last week that Tominello had worked for DiPiazza years ago, but that Tominello no longer works with DiPiazza's business.

Conrad Duncker, real estate attorney in Tominello's deals with DiPiazza and DiPiazza's partner, Richard Ferro, declined to comment.

"I really can't answer any questions. Have a good day sir," said Duncker, before hanging up the phone. Tominello did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him, through his attorneys and at his homes. That's too bad. It would have been nice to hear how he transformed his life, from Outfit bookie to Mr. Real Estate with Tommy D.

Investing in real estate with guys who know Mayor Daley isn't a crime, not even for a bookie. Understanding Chicago doesn't come by reading official press releases, but by reading the tracks of exotic creatures in public records.

"Rayjo was an integral part of the Cortina/Angelini combine," Chicago Crime Commission President James Wagner, the former longtime FBI supervisor, told me last week. "He hasn't been convicted of anything lately, but back then, Rayjo was considered to be one of them, not a lowly worker, but a manager, with talent and some ambition to move up. You're talking about a lot of money."

Just weeks before Tominello was indicted, he, Ferro and DiPiazza were listed on a commercial loan filing statement with the Illinois secretary of state's office for a continuation of an undetermined business loan. And a couple of years after Tominello's prison stint, in 1992, records show that a trust all three were involved in sold a large tract of commercial/industrial property at 300 W. 83rd Street, to the Chicago Board of Education for nearly $900,000. A portion of that property now serves as open space across the street from Simeon Career Academy.

In 1998 -- a year before DiPiazza met with Daley about Bridgeport Village -- DiPiazza's company sold a house to Tominello at 2806 S. Shields Ave., down the street from the neighborhood social center, the Italian American Club.

Next door to Tominello, DiPiazza deeded a lot to the family of Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, county records show. LaMantia was assuming control of the Chicago Outfit's Chinatown Crew that runs Bridgeport. And for the next five years, according to tax records, tax bills for the Tominello house on Shields were addressed to Ferro-DiPiazza, but with a catch. They were mailed to Tominello's home. But Rayjo's home isn't officially the Ferro-DiPiazza offices. That office is at 3611 S. Normal Ave. Perhaps Tominello forgot to put his name on his taxes.

A similar thing happened on a Tominello investment property on Archer Avenue purchased in 1997. On the deed, the mailing address was listed at Ferro-DiPiazza. City building inspectors in 2000 found several code violations. The violation notices were sent to Ferro-DiPiazza on Normal, not to Tominello's home on Shields.

In 2003, DiPiazza sold a home on Marco Island, Fla., to Tominello for $300,000, not counting sunscreen.

Rayjo isn't the only smart guy DiPiazza knows. DiPiazza and another friend of Degnan's, the mayoral fashionista/waste-hauling king Fred Bruno Barbara, are also investors in the pricey real estate that houses the famous Tavern on Rush restaurant in the city's historic Viagra Triangle at Bellevue and Rush.

Degnan is close to both men.

Decades ago, in a Tribune story, Degnan publicly admitted to a serious gambling problem, saying in 1969 he owed $82,000 in gambling debts. In today's dollars, that comes to $459,000, a huge chunk for a young man back then. I haven't heard about Degnan gambling a dime lately, unless you count his wife getting magically clouted in as an investor in that Rosemont casino deal.

There's nothing illegal in all this real estate investing, as far as I can tell. These are puzzle pieces, coming together, revealing a little known feature of City Hall's infrastructure.

I asked Jim Wagner if he was surprised that DiPiazza, with his City Hall clout, meeting with the mayor and so on, would be involved in deals with Rayjo.

"No," Wagner said.

Of course not. This is Chicago.

Thanks to John Kass

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